Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
As someone who runs memoir writing workshops, I've always maintained that a memoir, just like fiction, needs dialogue to reveal character, move the story along quickly and sustain reader interest. In Alabama Blue, Toni K. Pacini has shown that isn’t always true. Hence, I’m still slightly shocked at how skillfully Toni K. Pacini wrote her long memoir relying 95% of the time on narrative minus dialogue, yet somehow kept me riveted!
How did she do it? Well, for starters, the details of her life, after being born "poor white trash" to a hopelessly alcoholic mother who married seven times, are heartbreaking. This is the story of a child who grew into her teens and adulthood feeling invisible, unloved and unwanted; a person who stumbled down life's pathway mirroring her mother when it came to booze, drugs and men as she searched for love and a reason for living. Close to suicide many times, she persevered through poverty, rejection, rapes, social and religious bigotry, and hypocrisy.
As much as Alabama Blue is a memoir, it's also a social and religious commentary. So many times I stopped and thought about the implications of what Toni was revealing about the societies, mores, beliefs, and practices of which she was a victim. I find myself sickened by much of it and most certainly understand why Alabama made her blue and she never wants to live there again. Her original title was to be Southern Discomfort. No kidding!
While most of Alabama Blue is focused on the difficulties Toni. K. Pacini endured, she also shares some very funny events with her readers. Her foray into looking for love via Craig's List had me laughing out loud. But it was the tenderness of the love she shared with her dogs, especially one named "The Goose" that had the dog lover in me identifying with her all the way; her four-legged companion gave her what human beings couldn't and didn't: unconditional love. And when Toni cries as "The Goose" dies, we cry with her. Thankfully, by that time, she has indeed found herself a good man, Walt, to help her deal with yet another loss in a life filled with loss.
At the time of publication, Toni and Walt have now been together 12 years. Over the 50 or so years before Walt, bit by bit Toni pulled herself out of the trashy world of her birth. She managed to get her GED, and support herself in her later years through various jobs and, with the help of “The Goose,” learned to love herself and come to believe someone could love her back. Now in her sixties, Toni heads up writing groups in her area and is working on another book. Alabama Blue by Toni. K. Pacini is proof of what I've always believed: "It's our attitude, and not our aptitude, that determines our altitude." Inspiring!